6 Best Practices for Veterinary Practice Management

Kara Bednarik

veterinarians examining a cat

As members of a veterinary staff, you’re good at what you do – you can interpret puppy whines and read a cat just by looking at her ears. But managing a practice comes with – well, practice. And things both in the vet medicine industry and the practice management industry are changing so quickly. How could you possibly keep up? Embrace has come up with some best practices for you to manage the best practice you possibly can.

1. Build the right staff. Build a strong team to keep your practice running smoothly. Remember that where you might fall short in office management, someone else excels. Use each other’s skills to be the best veterinary team there ever was.

But it doesn’t stop there. Having the right staff is a wonderful first step – but rarely can you just hire someone and expect all of the job functions to be known. Proper training is crucial. Practice owner and DVM Steven Pearson says to “train employees early, often, and thoroughly.” You can’t expect to build a successful practice without prioritizing training, even in busy times. And having a staff who knows and understands your core beliefs and mission statement will give them a “we” attitude instead of a “me” attitude.

2. Engage with your staff. In addition to having the right staff, make sure you treat them kindly and fairly. You work a tough job – visits to the vet aren’t all wellness and treats. And the hours can be long! Plus, compassion fatigue is a very real emotion that can often lead to quick turnover. In a 2016 survey by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), only 23% of practices offered any form of support for their team experiencing compassion fatigue.

Have regular staff meetings and give one on one time to team members who have asked for it. You have a life outside of business and so does your staff. Having a good work/life balance means your team will come to work refreshed and leave feeling positive about a job well done. Consider training an employee in combatting compassion fatigue who can help their co-workers learn tips about how to deal with stress – or bring in a professional regularly for your team to speak to.

3. Focus on client relationships. Keep an open line of communication with your clients, give them tips to use between visits, and spend time with them during each visit to thoroughly go over questions and concerns. Nothing says “I don’t have time for this!” louder than rushing out of the exam room after you’ve given a vaccine. Spending time with your clients and giving advice about their concerns is an awesome way to keep them coming back to your practice.

4. Schedule appropriately. It’s important to give allowance to appointments that require it and the consistent blocks of time might not work for certain clients. Perhaps get a summary from each person calling for an appointment or block the days by appointment type (wellness exams in the morning, sick visits in the afternoon/evening, etc.). Spending your time where it’s needed most provides your clients with peace of mind that you’re present in the visit.

Similarly, if a pup is just there to be weighed and given a booster with no other concerns, a long appointment time could be a waste of your time if that space could be used somewhere more important. Also try to block out five minutes after each appointment for some breathing room for yourself. That’s a great time to have a snack, jot down some notes before you forget, and keep the general feeling of being rushed to a minimum.

Certified Veterinary Journalist Wendy S. Myers suggests leaving room for three “urgent care” slots per day – possibly more on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays when practices usually see the highest volume of sick pets. If these slots are not booked within 90 minutes of the appointment time, this saves room for new puppy exams or last-minute schedulers.

5. Consider pet insurance to grow your practice. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA)’s Pet Insurance Best Practices Guide for Veterinary Teams, more than 50% of pet owners would consider pet insurance if their vet’s office promoted it. When clients have insurance, they’re more likely to accept your recommended treatment plan as money isn’t a question. You get to practice the best medicine and your clients get to take home a healthy, happy pet, singing your practice’s praises all the while – it’s a win/win.

6. Keep up with the latest and greatest. The beautiful thing about new technology is that it never ends. Stay up to date with the newest veterinary trends and see if or how you could adopt them into your practice. Has a pet insurance company you’d never considered before revolutionizing coverage that would benefit your clients? Is there a piece of equipment that could help you tremendously that you can afford and make room for? The world is changing all the time, and the veterinary medical field is absolutely no different. Staying on top of new research and technology will help keep you informed and competitive.